Cover page by Mark Summerfield

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B. The Dangers of Software Patents

Patents are a curious anomaly in capitalist economies, since they are the grant of a private monopoly by the State. Adam Smith roundly condemns monopolies in The Wealth of Nations.

In modern times patents enjoy widespread support from a broad range of businesses—from small vacuum cleaner manufacturers to giant pharmaceutical companies. But when it comes to software patents, it is difficult to find anyone who positively supports them except for patent trolls (companies that buy and lease out patent rights but which create nothing themselves), and their lawyers. Back in 1991 Bill Gates said, “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, ...

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